HISTORY

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HISTORICAL DATES

Key dates and milestones in the history of the Women's Suffrage movement 

July 19-20, 1848

Seneca Falls Convention triggered and solidified the women's rights movement in America. 

November 27, 1909

A group of women, including Ellen Glasgow, Mary Johnston, Kate Langley Bosher, Adèle Clark, Nora Houston, Kate Waller Barrett, and Lila Meade Valentine, founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. 

June 1917

The government arrested and imprisoned suffragists, most of whom were incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Fairfax County, Virginia. 

November 15, 1917

Occoquan Workhouse "Night of Terror," Under orders from W. H. Whittaker, superintendent of the Occoquan Workhouse, as many as forty guards with clubs went on a rampage, brutalizing thirty-three jailed suffragists.  

November 23, 1917

Suffragist prisoners released from Workhouse to attend hearing in Federal Court in Alexandria, VA. Judge ruled that women protesters had been unlawfully imprisoned at Workhouse. 

August 18, 1920

Tennessee legislature ratifies 19th Amendment becoming the last of the necessary 36 states to secure ratification. 

August 26, 1920

The 19th Amendment is officially certified by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. This made the adoption of the Amendment official. Every year on this date, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day in commemoration. 

February 21, 1952

The Virginia General Assembly ratifies the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 32 years after it became law. 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT AND ALEXANDRIA'S ROLE

· The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution (Amendment XIX – often referred to as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment”) granted American women the right to vote, a right known as women’s suffrage. The Amendment prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. When the Amendment was ratified August 18, 1920, it ended almost a century of protest.
 

· During America’s early history, women were denied some of the basic rights enjoyed by male citizens. While women had the right to vote in several of the colonies in what would become the United States, by 1807 women had been denied even limited suffrage.
 

· By the late 19th century, new states and territories, particularly in the West, began to grant women the right to vote.
 

· The National Woman’s Party (NWP) staged marches, demonstrations, and hunger strikes while pointing out the contradictions of fighting abroad for democracy while limiting it at home by denying women the right to vote. Suffragists who were called “Silent Sentinels” carried signs and posted outside the White House were arrested.
 

· Virginia women, like other women nationally, fought for voting rights to implement more effectively the social changes they championed. They supported education reform, child labor laws, and the temperance movement. Concepts like racial equality or upward mobility for the poor, however, proved too radical for consideration.
 

· Alexandria played a part in the movement and eventual success of the passage of the 19th Amendment. A number of leading suffragists lived in Alexandria -- women like Kate Waller Barrett who supported woman suffrage and served as honorary vice president of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and who attended Susan B. Anthony’s funeral as one of Anthony’s supporters (the Alexandria public library on Queen Street bears her name).
 

· The Lloyd House on North Washington Street in Alexandria was once the home of famed suffragist leader Carolyn Hallowell Miller. The Washington Post listed the head of the Alexandria branch of the Virginia League of Women Voters as writer Rose MacDonald. There were others in Alexandria actively seeking and supporting suffrage.
 

· The March on Washington in 1913 galvanized the Woman Suffrage Movement and helped lead to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
 

· Other suffragists were arrested in Washington DC and imprisoned at the Workhouse in nearby Lorton, VA. Several of the women prisoners were force-fed and physically and emotionally abused and humiliated.
 

· In November 1917, the Suffragist prisoners were brought to a hearing at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, during which some of the women collapsed from Workhouse mistreatment and malnutrition. The judge declared that the Suffragists should not have been jailed at the Workhouse. The women’s convictions (for “blocking traffic” on the wide Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk in the District of Columbia) were eventually tossed out by the Federal Courts.
 

· The mostly white movement often discriminated against black women working toward the same goal, and while the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) supported the 15th Amendment granting black men the vote, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) did not support it-- because it neglected women.  Even though black men officially had won the right to vote in 1870, impossible literacy tests, high poll taxes, and grandfather clauses prevented many of them from casting their ballots. 


· In the 1880s, black reformers began organizing their own groups. In 1896, they founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which became the largest federation of local black women’s clubs. They advocated for women’s rights as well as to improve the status of African Americans.
 

· In 1890, the American Woman Suffrage Association merged with the National Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which sought the vote for all American women.
 

· Entry of the United States into World War I helped to shift public perception of women’s suffrage.
 

· An account in the Alexandria Gazette of the first election after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, revealed the total number of eligible Alexandria voters at 4250; the total number of eligible female voters in Alexandria at 1399 and female turnout in Alexandria for the election at approximately 1050.
 

· The 19th Amendment enfranchised 26-million American women in time for the 1920 U.S. presidential election (Woodrow Wilson).

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